The clock still hasn’t struck midnight on the fairy-tale season of Sacramento Republic FC, the soccer team that won a championship this past weekend in its first year.
Everything that has made this ride so magical was displayed in abundance in the 2-0 win Saturday night over the Harrisburg City Islanders. The sellout crowd of 8,000 at Bonney Field was at a fever pitch from the start. Fans unable to get tickets were able to cheer from their living rooms because Channel 31 televised the match.
Once the final whistle blew, players celebrated with the Tower Bridge Battalion, jumping into the bleachers in our version of the Lambeau Leap made famous by the NFL’s Green Bay Packers. Mayor Kevin Johnson gave a big bear hug to USL Pro President Tim Holt, who gushed with praise about how Sacramento had put itself on the national soccer map.
When the championship cup was raised in an explosion of confetti, it was a great moment for Sacramento sports – the first pro title since the River Cats won the Pacific Coast League in 2008.
Now, team owners and vociferous fans hope that all the success and enthusiasm persuades Major League Soccer to give Sacramento an expansion franchise. Fans chanted “M-L-S, M-L-S” during the post-match festivities.
When they visited Sacramento earlier this month, MLS executives declared they were “incredibly impressed” by the “tremendous” progress. They toured the proposed downtown railyard site and saw details of the 20,000-seat stadium that could cost $100 million or more – and better yet for taxpayers, be paid for entirely with private money.
It would be a remarkable feat if Sacramento snags an MLS team. With the pixie dust surrounding Republic FC, the dream doesn’t seem so far-fetched.